I wish to see Miss Beecher…

Birdwatchers will instantly recognize this as a bird call. Yes, birdwatchers, you guessed it. This is the call of the chestnut-sided warbler. Ornithologists also identify the call as something like please, please to meetcha. My husband got a close look at the warbler while using our water closet.  He saw the energetic bird hopping from branch to branch on our lilac bush adjacent to the back of the house. When I informed him of the English version of the birdsong, he chuckled, considering the location of the sighting.

Ever wonder how renowned bird expert Rory Peterson came up with his descriptions of bird songs? I picture him wearing earphones, listening to recordings. Perhaps he had a paper and pencil next to him. He narrows his eyes in concentration. What does that call sound like? Over and over, Peterson mutters to himself.

Take the oven-bird, described by Peterson as a ‘voice in the woods’. If a teacher takes a stroll in the forest, it sounds like students haunting eastern woodlands. The oven-bird sings an emphatic teacher, TEACHER, TEACHER…repeated rapidly…louder and louder until the woods ring out with the sound. If a teacher is named Miss Beecher, imagine her reaction to these mingled songs. I wish to see Miss Beecher….teacher…TEACHER…TEACHER! Poor Miss Beecher would think she had stumbled into a Stephen King horror flick!

Hopefully, Miss Beecher would not then hear the cry of the rusty blackbird. Peterson describes it as ‘a note, a loud clack…like a rusty hinge, rather penetrating’. She would definitely run for her life, certain that disgruntled students from years past were out to get her.

Wait! Wait! Now the brewer’s blackbird is after her! She hears the harsh wheezy check, check, again the sound of a rusty hinge. Miss Beecher stumbles along, deeper into the woods. Finally she gets a break. She hears pensive whistles(as described in Peterson’s field guide)-two clear notes, then three quavering notes on a different pitch. Yes, you guessed it birdwatchers! It is the white-throated sparrow singing Sam Peabody…Peabody…Peabody.

Now our little story comes to a happy end. Our heroine is not trapped in a Stephen King story. Think Jane Austen. Think Victorian romance. Miss Beecher meets her true love. Miss Beecher meets Sam Peabody.

Leave a Comment